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The Other Me
Not For Sale
I drove down the highway listening to talk radio when I glanced in the rear view mirror. That was when I saw me in the car behind me. It was a younger me. The me before the kids were born. The me before I needed a chiropractor.
That me was speeding. It reminded me how reckless I had been during those years. I hated that me. That me drove without headlights in the dark of night just for the challenge and stole from unlocked cars. I performed stupid stunts without regard for anyone else. That me could not fathom how challenging life would become without resorting to careless risks. As I cursed me, that me passed on the left and got in front of me.
I reminisced about the car the younger me drove. It was a gray Honda Civic. Boring-looking old thing, but I had some good times in that car. My college buddies and I penciled our autographs on the dashboard. We ate sunflower seeds and spit them right on the floor mats. I cannot recall changing the oil in the car—ever. Yet, the engine cranked up without complaint day after day.
As the younger me zoomed into the distance, I could only make out the bumper sticker’s white outline. I remembered the sticker said something funny and sped up to read it. Something about a chicken. Just then, traffic suddenly stopped.
The other me slammed on the brakes and skidded a few feet before coming to a perfect stop. A little less alert and agile, I also slammed on the brakes. My tires squealed right before my Buick crunched into the Honda’s rear end. It was only a mild collision and the other me was alright, so I mostly felt dread. How would I ever deal with me after an accident? I had no intention of apologizing to that young pleasure-monger. Still, I looked at the deadlocked traffic and got out of my car to hand over my insurance.
I could feel the other me try to make eye contact, but I averted my eyes. As I avoided eye contact with myself, I noticed all the other drivers gawking unsympathetically at my plight. Some talked on their cell phones—probably reporting the accident to local radio stations. Without a word, the other me walked to the bumper to inspect the damage.
Young me said, “Meh, it’s nothing. Forget about it.” With that, the other me let me go scot free.
As I returned to the driver’s seat, I reflected on how bitter I had become after life had dealt its remaining cards. After my salaried position became a part-time job. After the bank foreclosed on the home where we raised our children. After my wife had a stroke.
The younger me was the me she married. That me knew how to relax and have a good time. I was not reclusive then. I was much cooler when I was young. Stupid and selfish, but cool.
When traffic resumed a normal pace, I lost sight of the old me and exited the highway. I pulled into a gas station and purchased sunflower seeds for the first time in ten years. I could not bring myself to spit them on the floor mat.
*This short story is part of a published collection called The Footstool: A Christian Short Story Collection. “The Other Me” was first published in Foliate Oak (November 2010) and later anthologized in Best of Foliate Oak (2010).
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